When I first entered college as a chemistry major at UC Berkeley, my interest in this subject was spurred by cool demonstrations with explosive fireball and vibrant colors. Over the past eleven years and a student and researcher, my passion for chemistry has grown and I can appreciate not only the fun aspects in the laboratory and classroom, but how chemical principles undergird all of life and nature, allowing me to see what I've learned at work around me in the world. A deep knowledge of the principles of chemistry have granted me the ability to see beauty in the world and in everyday life, from baking delicious cookies to walking through serene forest groves. Chemistry has also opened up the door to understanding biology and the workings of cells and life itself. Regardless of whether someone desires to pursue chemistry as a course of study as I have, my desire as a teacher of chemistry is to impress on everyone how even an elementary understanding of chemistry can brighten up the world around us.
Undergraduate Degree: University of California-Berkeley - Bachelors, Chemistry
Graduate Degree: Massachusetts Institute of Technology - PHD, Inorganic Chemistry
Reading, swimming, volleyball
What is your teaching philosophy?
Available upon request.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a typical first session with a student, I would most of all be interested in getting to know the student: what their interests are and their attitudes toward the subject we'd be working on. I would then simply start working with the student on whatever problem is at hand (homework, studying for test, etc.). I find that working on problems is the best way to assess where a student is with the material and how we can build up their understanding.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
The key to becoming an independent learner is the ability to make connections. So many people want to know what the right answer to a problem is and have no interest in how a problem is connected to other problems. This is not helpful to actually learning something. My goal is always to draw connections, ask questions, and prod the student to think outside the confines of any particular practice problem. Ultimately, this will lead to independent learning as the student makes a habit of asking questions, and knowing that they can find answers if they just start with what they know and go from there.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I motivate students by focusing on what they do know rather than what they do not know. What a student knows is the foundation for all that they can and will learn, and that is empowering (however little it may seem at times). Focusing on what a student doesn't know is an irrelevant distraction that casts judgment, discourages, and does nothing to actually help the learning process.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would spend as much time as needed on learning that skill or concept. This may require approaching a problem a number of different ways and drawing out connections to other skills/concepts that might not otherwise be apparent, but will ultimately help to create a solid understanding of the material.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
For students who are struggling with reading comprehension, I would ask them to slow down and take it one bit at a time. For myself, I miss things when I go too fast, or I misunderstand what is being said. Slowing down, parsing each sentence, and fully understanding what is being said is difficult in the age of Twitter, but it is a skill that is essential to life.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I help students get excited and engaged with the subject they are struggling in by making connections to things that are exciting and engaging. I have taught chemistry to biologists and engineers, and I've managed to get them interested in the coursework by showing them how fundamental chemistry is to their own academic interests.